“As thou didst send me into the World, even so sent I them into the world” (John 17:18).
THE world, in the sense in which the Word so often describes it, is not only a sphere where men live, but it is also a sphere which governs men. Their behaviour, their bodies and their very souls are ruled, tyrannized over, by the world. That was the world to which the Lord Jesus did not belong, and that is the world from which, by His wonderful work upon the Cross, He has delivered us, so that in a sense, just as before He entered upon His humanity He stood right apart from the world order, so in a very real sense the moment we are men and women in Christ, we too stand right apart from that world order.
And yet, though it was true of the Lord Jesus that He did not belong to this world, He came as one sent into the world: “As thou didst send me into the world …” We know that; we know the life that the Lord Jesus lived here in the world and we know — we notice as we read the Gospels — that all the time the comfort and the strength in His heart was the knowledge that He was not here by chance, He was not the victim of circumstances or of men, but He was here because the Father had sent Him.
Now He makes this most remarkable comparison. As the Father sent Him into the world, so are we sent into the world. You will believe that those who have been sent by the Lord into other lands as His missionary servants have, in times when things seemed difficult and full of problems and, indeed, of suffering and danger, been fortified in their hearts by this knowledge that, however bad things were, at least they had been sent there by the Lord. But I want to suggest to you that such servants of the Lord have no monopoly of that comfort and that it is available for every one of us; for I take it that our Lord Jesus was not speaking merely of the apostolic ministry of these whom He had sent, but of the position that every child of God holds in this world. We do not belong to the world, and are not of it. Well, then, why are we in it? Not because the Lord just suspended the full working of His redemption for us and left us here for a while. It is as though, in a flash when we were saved, we were taken out of it, and then were brought back into it again, not as belonging to it, but as sent here by the Lord.
I want to bring this as a word of comfort, perhaps, to some who may be tempted to feel that their lives are governed by men, or by the ways and circumstances of this present time, or by their own private conditions of life. So long as we, even for one moment, accept that mentality that makes us the victim either of circumstances or of men or of ourselves, so long do we lack the comfort and the strength that the Lord has for us. So long as we are able, even in the most uncongenial or difficult or apparently unfruitful circumstances, to say: ‘The Lord sent me here!’ so have we all the comfort and strength that Christ had in being in this world.
And let us remember this: even the Lord Jesus did not move about just as freely as He pleased, in spite of the specific guidance which He received from heaven. It would seem to be so much easier a life if we could go here, or move out of certain circumstances, or take a course that was just something between us and the Lord. I suggest to you that the life of Christ was not like that. Christ the babe went down to Egypt under the drive of a force of danger, as it seemed. Christ the boy had to leave the temple and go back with His parents subjecting Himself to their will rather than to that which seemed to Him to be the opening of a ministry. On certain occasions Christ sought solitude, and the crowds thronged Him and robbed Him of what He sought. At other times He could not go into the cities, but had to withdraw Himself because one whom He told to be quiet published abroad what ought to have been kept secret, or because the people would have taken hold of Him by force to make Him a king. Then there were the last phases of the life of the Lord, when He was taken by cruel and wicked men and led away to the Cross. So, you see, there was something even in the life of the Lord Jesus which was akin to that which comes to us of making us apparently the victim of circumstances or of the ways of men. If for one moment the Lord Jesus had accepted what was apparent, He would have lost His joy and His strength; but He never accepted that, and the position He took, not merely when He was on His own initiative taking some step as between Himself and the Father, but even when He was being moved about, hunted, driven, taken prisoner, crucified, was all the time: ‘I am in this world as sent by God!’
Now, can you and I take hold of that just where we are? It is more difficult for us to see the purpose of our being sent, perhaps, than it was for the Lord, but we have His Word on which to rely. For you, [76/77] just you, this verse is true: “As thou didst send me into the world, even so sent I them into the world.” ‘As the Father sent Me into the world’, says the Lord, ‘so have I sent you into the world!’
And when the Father sent the Son into the world, did He just leave Him? Did He not give Himself with all the interest and strength of His love to stand behind that Son, to carry Him through? Of course He did, and the inference of all this chapter is that the Lord is saying concerning those whom He has sent into the world: ‘I stand behind you! I pray for you!’ Well, it means a great deal when the Lord does not just say: ‘I will mention them in My prayer’, but: ‘I pray for them! I give Myself to that! Because I sent them into the world they are My responsibility!’ We are His responsibility just where we are, and even though at times our lives seem to be ordered by circumstances beyond our power where it is hard to see one trace of the hand of God, let us hold fast to His Word. We are where we are because He sent us there, and if He sent us there, He will pray for us and see us through. Always providing that ours is a prayerful life of dependence upon the Lord, as was His. – H.F.